“Come wipe me” I hear from a distant location in my house. “Come WIPE you?” I ask for confirmation. “Yes, I’m upstairs mom.”
I could have said no, for pete’s sake she is 7 years old (!), but I did not. I said yes. And I know she probably will not like to read this article when she grows up, but dammit, they are only young once. So I trudged up the stairs, lifting my legs with my hands one at a time, and wiped her. I reminded myself again, they are only young once.
I often tell my kids no and I have seen many other bloggers write about the year of YES and their personal efforts to tell their kids no less often. I am right there with you. I say no for a lot of reasons. Sometimes I just don’t want to, sometimes it is not part of my plan in that moment and a lot of times it is because I cannot move my body fast enough, far enough, close enough, wherever enough to where they are and need or want me to be. And a lot of times, it is not even a no, it is an I can’t right now. That sucks equally bad.
The other part of saying no though has more to do with modeling behavior, at least the way that way that I see it and the way it fits into our family dynamic. I rely on my children way more than they should be relied upon at 7 and 4 years old because I need help. A lot of help, and it is literally can you go get this, can you get me that, I left my iPad upstairs, can you carry this pile of laundry. So sometimes I do not think it is fair of me to tell them no because just as they help me, I need to help them. We are a team. I need my team. And even if the energy of doing is more than I want to expend, and it takes me 2 or 5 or 10 minutes to do something, I am willing to do it for as long as I am physically able to do it. From my perspective having advanced MS is hard enough for me to interpret my day-to-day so I can only imagine their confusion with the unpredictability of my illness. What works one day, does not work another. They see frustration and they also see effort and I will always try before I admit that my legs just aren’t working the way I would like them to. I try very hard to avoid “I can’t today.”
You may be wondering why on earth I need to wipe my 7 year old daughter, how that helps her and what that has to do with saying yes or no or modeling behavior or anything? I do not consider myself an enabler. She is plenty independent for that to be plausible. You see, it is the little things and with each day that passes I am beginning to see with clarity a lot of lasts. So it’s the yes’ and the no’s and the modeling and the lasts. And I am hanging on. It is her asking, me doing (serving even in the smallest of ways) and her remembering that I am there for her (literally, anywhere she needs me I suppose), and that for me, that last ask will come at some point. It is stopping the endless number of chores and have-to-do’s and sitting on the floor to play with my little guy when he asks. It feels so hard to do, but it is always the right decision, at least for me. AND my little guy slept in his toddler bed for the very last time on Thursday, March 2nd. Go little guy! Another last and I didn’t even remember to take a picture. The momentous event did get recorded in the baby app though (thank you smartphones). Win.
I have always joked that there are certain things I didn’t sign up for as a mom. You should see my Google history! Child’s feet itch only at night is probably my favorite. I know you can relate. Some of the other line items that I didn’t see in the fine print guide of motherhood were washing hair for years & years, and making lunches EVERY DAY for who knows how long. Asking them to stop licking other people’s food, heck, stop licking each other, and please do not smear ketchup on your knees. Wiping, see paragraph number one. Why are you wearing seven pairs of underwear at once? And no, I am not emptying the (full, perfectly bubbled) bathtub, it is just a fuzzy floating in there and not a bug. Commence chasing said fuzzy around the bathtub with a toy kitchen cup whilst being stared down to ensure said fuzzy was captured and dumped into the toilet. Answering countless, random questions as I am closing the bedroom door at night. “Hey Mom, I was wondering, how do physical diseases form?” YES, that was a REAL question. YESTERDAY. I whine about this stuff all the time. All the time. All I can see is the clock at night ticking by, 8:45 then 9:00 then 9:02 and I feel the blood pressure rising as I silently list my to-do’s in the doorway. I have to go! Dishes, ride my bike, laundry, work, bills, even dinner sometimes. And maybe it is just a coping mechanism, but when I think about the fact that that last time is coming, it kind of keeps me standing there, answering the questions. I do cut it off at some point, because I mean, I am still the co-boss of the house and there are boundaries. But the dance is real, the line is real. Stepping back and forth over that guilt of wanting to listen to them until I myself fall asleep just standing there relishing their stories and establishing real rules where there is a real bed time because we all need real rest. And real sanity.
So this morning I left my bedroom hearing the clunk and squeak of sneakers downstairs. At first I thought it was jump roping, because #1 daughter is currently obsessed with jump roping. I was greeted at the bottom of the steps (admittedly still half asleep) by a beaming smile that quickly exploded into bursting words of self-satisfaction. “MOM. I’ve brushed my hair, packed my school bag AND I made the lunches! For me AND Will! Next I am making breakfast!” Whoa. That took a moment to process.
I offered help to make chocolate milk but was shortly cut off with, “No, I got it!” SO WAIT A MINUTE. Does this mean I am already off the hook for making lunches? Forever? Happy dance!
Oh right, that is the half asleep side of me whispering. Do not taunt me like that, it is not fair until I have had coffee. And tonight is bath night so I will have to wash hair, scoop fuzzies, and I will have to answer complex bed time questions and sing countless made up songs about monsters and princesses and super heroes. Because one day, one night they will be grown. There will be no hair washing, no lunch making, no googling, no wiping and no sitting on the floor to play bat cave. So although I will still say no (because rules and stuff), I will say a lot more of yes and as each last comes to pass, I will close that chapter with a smile. They are only young once.